Selfridges is well known for its artistic collaborations. Each year, the brand enlists a wide range of artists, designers, photographers and creatives to work on campaigns and in-store experiences – from pop-ups to installations and exhibitions.
For its AW19 campaign, The New Order, Selfridges invited five digital creatives – Jon Emmony, Ines Alpha, Filip Custic, Jamie-Maree Shipton and Digi-Gal founder Cat Taylor – to imagine the future of fashion and shopping.
The New Order was conceived in 2018 as a response to global events that have seen us rethink everything from politics to pop culture, and asked creatives to challenge how people interact with and consume products. “New ideas are sparked by radical times, so we asked ourselves which were the best innovations to take forward into the 2020s?” says Emma Kidd, director of creative direction at Selfridges.
The campaign was one of Selfridges’ most ambitious yet, and saw the brand work with creatives to produce a range of digital projects, including an interactive photo booth that allowed shoppers to try out 3D makeup looks, an AR installation that transformed the atrium of its Oxford Street store into a swirling column of water filled with luminescent sculptures, and a series of shoppable window displays that combined 3D set design with strange and surreal artworks featuring clothes walking without models.
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Alongside this, Selfridges worked with artists to create a range of digital ads for Facebook and Instagram, which featured items that were available to buy online and in store. The resulting creative offers an unusual take on traditional product shots, with items showcased in imagined virtual worlds.
Selfridges’ creative team worked on the concept for a year before launching the campaign in late 2019. One of their main objectives was to explore “new modes of digital creation”, so as part of this process, they met with a range of creatives to learn more about their work. From there, they selected five people to collaborate with, and assigned a particular product category to each artist based on their style.
“This was somewhat of an experiment, looking at what the future of fashion advertising might look like,” says Kidd. “We worked with the artists because we love their work, so we purposefully kept the brief to them quite open to allow creative freedom.
“As a starting point, we shared the product selection that needed to be included in the ad, then each artist created moodboards for a digital world.”
Product ads for Facebook and Instagram are usually created by Selfridges’ customer marketing team, using images from the brand’s website, but the project allowed the brand to try out a whole new approach.
“Our [creative] schemes are always seen as places for experimentation, allowing us to explore aesthetics that might be a departure from our usual visual output,” says Kidd. “The main benefit [with The New Order] was opening up a whole new world of content creation and the possibilities that come with digital art as opposed to a studio shoot, allowing us to celebrate the materiality of the clothes through their texture and movement, and create worlds that would not have been possible in a traditional in-camera shoot.”
While the initial concept for the campaign was devised by the creative team, the customer marketing team were closely involved throughout the process, helping put together a detailed brief for creatives in line with campaign objectives and requirements.
“Both teams were directly involved in the collaboration – from the initial meetings with the artists to ensure they had a clear understanding of the deliverables, to the final delivery of assets. We were all aligned in wanting to push boundaries and ensure the product was presented in the best possible way,” adds Kidd.
For Selfridges, this presented a very different way of working: “There was no way to see visuals or mock-ups of the final ad before we went into production – this was because the magic and creation of the digital worlds happened during the production process,” explains Kidd. “There was a lot of artistic licence and fluidity in allowing the digital worlds to evolve during the process.”
It also presented some scheduling challenges, with the brand having to source products much earlier than they would for a traditional photoshoot in order to allow time for creatives to build a digital world around them.
The final campaign offered a playful and imaginative alternative to traditional direct response ads, giving Selfridges a surprising range of assets that stand out on even the most crowded of mobile screens.
While the project was initially conceived as an experiment, the brand plans to continue exploring digital production methods and trying out new approaches to direct response advertising in future.
“Pushing the envelope with digital art opens up new possibilities and ways to engage with social media and shop. The New Order was an opportunity to learn the realm of the possible once physical boundaries are removed,” adds Kidd.
As Isabelle Quevilly, head of Creative Shop UK, points out, playing with new mediums and taking a creative approach to ad formats can help brands strengthen their identity and result in a greater return on ad spend. “When it comes to creating direct response ads, we recommend starting with mobile best practices. Frame your visual story, design for sound off and be short in duration,” says Quevilly. “Then you can layer on [creative elements] that drive action, highlighting the brand early, and showcasing the product and service.”
With the coronavirus pandemic upturning our normal routines and shopping habits, retailers have had to find alternative ways of doing business and engaging with consumers over the past few months. It’s been a tricky time for the industry, but Quevilly recommends thinking creatively and using a range of digital tools to keep consumers informed and deliver a great shopping experience.
“My advice would be to consider solutions such as driving hyperlocal strategies or proactively communicating temporary store changes and local inventory,” she says.
“There’s also an opportunity to reimagine the next normal: how to expand the high street experience, adapt to new shopper safety concerns, and implement solutions to help bring the store on mobile through messaging experiences or curated collections with Facebook Shops, for example.”
Great Work is part of Inspire, a partnership between Creative Review, Facebook and Instagram to showcase outstanding advertising on both platforms. You can see more content from the partnership at creativereview.co.uk/inspire and find tips and advice on using Facebook and Instagram’s ad tools at facebook.com/ads/creativehub